Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among UK men with over 40,000 new cases every year. Men who eat red meat or high-fat dairy products have a higher risk of getting the disease. The growth hormone IGF-1 may be involved; men who consume cow’s milk and dairy products have higher levels of this hormone. Vegans have lower levels. A low-fat vegan diet rich in fruit and vegetables combined with exercise can help slow the progression of prostate cancer in men who already have it.
The idea that men need to eat red meat to perform in the bedroom couldn’t be more wrong. Meat and dairy foods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which clog up the arteries leading to and from the heart and can block blood flow to other vital organs! Obesity – also linked to meat and dairy – can lead to erectile problems and impotence and may lower sex drive. A diet rich in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, nuts and seeds protects against blocked arteries, heart disease, stroke and obesity and lowers the risk of impotence, which can be an early warning of heart disease. Meat is not so macho after all, it seems!
Fertility problems affect one in seven couples in the UK. A number of studies show that in men, dairy foods are related to decreased secretion of testosterone and men who eat meat and full-fat dairy products, especially cheese, have fewer and slower sperm, while those who ate the most fruit and vegetables (which means more vitamins, folic acid and fibre and fewer proteins and fats) have higher quality sperm that swim faster. The authors of one study said men trying to have children should consider restricting their intake of cheese and other dairy foods.
Body builders who use steroid hormones or whey-based supplements to promote muscle growth are more prone to acne. The hormones in dairy can increase oil secretion in the skin, which can block hair follicles and become infected and inflamed giving rise to large pus-filled spots. As two thirds of retail cow’s milk is taken from pregnant cows, when hormone (oestrogen) levels are sky-high, avoiding dairy can reduce or eliminate acne.
Depression may be more common in women than men, but men are more likely to commit suicide. This could be because men are more reluctant to seek help. Research shows that vegans report less stress and anxiety than meat and dairy eaters and that reducing meat and dairy may offer significant mood benefits.
Breast cancer is relatively rare in men affecting about 400 men each year in the UK, compared with around 50,000 cases in women. However, the outlook for breast cancer is not as good in men as in women probably because there is reduced awareness and it may take longer to diagnose. A large body of evidence links the consumption of meat, milk and cheese with the incidence of breast cancer.
The BBQ is a popular male domain where sausages, burgers and hot dogs are frequently burned to a crisp! The World Health Organisation says that processed meat (sausages, ham and bacon) causes bowel cancer and red meat probably does, too. Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in England and the third most common cause of cancer death after lung and prostate cancer in men. The solution is easy; stick a vegan sausage or a Portobello mushroom on the grill!
Nearly 1.4 million men in the UK have heart disease and every year, around 50,000 men in England suffer a heart attack. Stopping smoking and taking regular exercise helps but so can going vegan. It can help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol, lower blood pressure and avoid or manage type 2 diabetes. One study showed how a plantbased diet reversed heart disease in 177 heart patients, most with angina and impotence. After nearly four years only one experienced an adverse event (a stroke). Of the 21 patients who dropped out of the study, 13 events occurred including two sudden cardiac deaths, one heart transplant, two strokes, four stent placements and three coronary artery bypasses!
The UK has become the ‘fat man of Europe’. One in four British adults is obese. Obese men are five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, three times more likely to develop bowel cancer and more than two and a half times more likely to develop high blood pressure – a major risk factor for heart disease. Research shows that vegans weigh less than meat and dairy eaters. A low-fat vegan diet works better than fad diets to help you lose and maintain a healthy weight. It also helps improve fat levels in the blood and in people with diabetes, can help control blood sugar levels.
You don’t build muscle by eating muscle (meat). Muscles develop by being used. The best diet to fuel exercise is a well-balanced wholegrain vegan diet. It provides complex carbohydrates, antioxidants and fibre, while avoiding saturated animal fats, animal protein and cholesterol –linked to a heart disease, diabetes, obesity and some cancers. Wholemeal bread, brown pasta and brown rice, provide slowrelease energy and fibre to help protect heart and bowel health. Disease-busting antioxidants; vitamins A, C and E, are especially important for sports people. Nuts, seeds, beans, avocados and vegetable oils provide unsaturated essential fats including omega-3s from flaxseed (linseed) oil and walnuts. It supplies all the nutrients your body requires to maintain a sporty lifestyle and build up extra muscle.
For more information see viva!health’s men’s health pages viva!health is a major resource on vegan health and nutrition providing information for health professionals and the public. www.vivahealth.org.uk/menshealth